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New vaccine points to better protection against TB: Aussie research

24 August 2019 16:22

SYDNEY. KAZINFORM Australian medical researchers said they have successfully developed and tested a new type of vaccine targeting tuberculosis.

The early-stage vaccine was shown to provide substantial protection against the major infectious disease in a pre-clinical laboratory setting, according to a statement from the Centenary Institute medical research center in Sydney on Friday, Xinhua reports.

«Tuberculosis is a huge world-wide health problem. It's caused by a bacteria that infects the lungs after it's inhaled, is contagious and results in approximately 1.6 million deaths per year globally,» said Dr Anneliese Ashhurst, co-lead author of the study reported in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry academic publication and affiliated with both the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney.

Ashhurst and a team of scientists created the advanced synthetic tuberculosis vaccine and demonstrated its effectiveness using mouse models, according to the institute.

«Two peptides (small proteins) which are normally found in tuberculosis bacteria were synthesized and then bound extremely tightly to an adjuvant (a stimulant) that was able to kick-start the immune response in the lungs,» Ashhurst said.

«We were then able to show that when this vaccine was inhaled into the lungs, it stimulated the type of T cells known to protect against TB. Importantly, we then demonstrated that this type of vaccine could successfully protect against experimental airborne TB infection,» she said.

Professor Warwick Britton, head of the Centenary Institute tuberculosis research program and co-senior researcher on the project with Professor Richard Payne, school of chemistry, University of Sydney, emphasized the importance of the work being done.

«There currently exists only one lone vaccine for TB (known as BCG) and this is only effective in reducing the risk of disease for infants,» Britton said.

«It fails to prevent infection or provide long term protection in older individuals and it isn't considered suitable for use in individuals with an impaired immune system. More effective vaccines are urgently required to save lives,» he said.

Britton said he is excited that the team's vaccine strategy - directly generating immunity in the lungs - has proven to be the «right research approach to take».

«The important thing is that the vaccine actually gets to the lungs because that's where you first see TB. Ultimately, we would love to see a form of this vaccine available for use in an easily inhaled nasal spray which would provide life-long TB protection,» he said.

«Although this outcome is still many years away, we are certainly heading in the right direction. Our next steps will be to determine if our synthetic vaccine can be developed into a form suitable for use in humans.»

There are an estimated 2 billion individuals carrying tuberculosis globally and up to 10 percent of these individuals develop the disease in their lifetime, with more than half of tuberculosis cases occurring in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the institute.

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